Tag: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

New Video: Deep Sea Diver Teams Up with Sharon Van Etten on the Vulnerable and Anthemic “Impossible Weight”

Led by its accomplished, Los Angeles-born, Seattle-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and frontperson Jessica Dobson, the Seattle-based indie rock act Deep Sea Diver can trace its origins back to when Dobson was 19: Dobson, who has had stints  playing with a who’s who list of contemporary acts, including Beck, Conor Oberst, Spoon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Shins signed with Atlantic Records. And while with Atlantic Records, Dobsons wrote and recorded two albums that she wasn’t completely satisfied with — and Atlantic ultimately shelved the material and dropped her from the label.

After leaving Atlantic, Dobson wrote and recorded her official solo debut EP New Caves under the name Deep Sea Diver. The project expanded to a full-fledged band with the addition of John Raines (bass) Dobson’s spouse Peter Mansen (drums), Garrett Gue (bass), and Elliot Jackson (guitar, synth), who helped to flesh out the project’s sound. Since then the band has released two albums — 2012’s self-released debut History Speaks, 2014’s Always Waiting EP and 2016’s acclaimed Secrets.

The band’s third album Impossible Weight is slated for an October 16, 2020 release through High Beam Records/ATO Records, and the album follows a busy year of touring with Wilco and Joseph. The album’s sonic and emotional expanse reportedly stems from a period of sometimes brutal self-examination — a process that began for Dobson, not long after the Seattle-based indie quartet finished touring to support Secrets. “We went into the studio pretty quickly after the tour ended, and I sort of hit a wall where I was feeling very detached from making music, and unable to find joy in it,” Dobson recalls in press notes. “I realized I had to try to rediscover my voice as a songwriter, and figure out the vocabulary for what I needed to say on this album.”

Stepping back from music and the studio, Dobson focused on dealing with the depression she had been struggling with, and soon started volunteering for Aurora Commons, a  drop-in center for unhoused people, most whom are drug-dependent and frequently engage in street-survival-based sex work. “I spent a lot of time with the women who frequent the Commons, and it taught me a new depth of empathy,” she says. “They’re people who don’t have the luxury of going back to a home at the end of the day and hiding behind those four walls, so they’re sort of forced to be vulnerable with what their needs are. Talking with them and listening to them really freed me up to start writing about things I’d never written about before in my songs.”

Co-produced by Dobson and Andy D. Park and recorded at Seattle’s Studio X and The Hall of Justice, Impossible Weight finds Dobson and company digging far deeper emotionally than ever before — and pairing it with a bigger, more grandiose sound. While revealing Dobson’s dexterous and powerful guitar work, the album’s lush textures and mercurial arrangements allow room for Dobson to fully demonstrate her vocal range in a way that she hadn’t before. “’I’d never produced a record before and I started out with low expectations for myself, but at some point I realized, ‘I can do this,’” Dobson recalls. “I decided to completely trust my voice and make really bold decisions in all my production calls—just push everything to the absolute outer edges.” 

Interestingly, for Dobson redefining the limits of her artistry goes hand-in-hand with deeper identity issues that came up while Dobson and her bandmates were working on the band’s third album. “I was adopted and just recently met my birth mother, and found out that I’m half-Mexican and half-Jewish,” Deep Sea Diver’s frontperson explains. “Discovering my heritage and learning things about myself that I never knew before really fed into that question of ‘Where do I belong?’” Simultaneously, Dobson rediscovered the sense of possibility, adventure and joy that she first felt when she started out as a 19 year-old.  “I think being signed at such a young age messed me up in terms of the expectations I put on myself,” she says. “Somewhere along the way I lost confidence in my own vision, but after making this record I feel a much larger freedom to go in whatever direction I want with my music.”  

With Impossible Weight, Dobson hopes that others might reclaim a similar sense of freedom in their emotional lives. “Especially right now when the world is in disarray and there’s so much fear, I want this record to give people room to feel whatever they need to feel,” she says. “I hope it helps them recognize that it’s okay to fall apart, and that they’re meant to let others in instead of trying to work through everything on their own. Because the point is that the impossible weight isn’t yours to carry alone—that’s why it’s impossible.”

Last month, I wrote about Impossible Weight’s third single “Lights Out,”  a track that managed to be defiant and anthemic, yet delicate and vulnerable, centered around a slick studio sheen, Dobson’s expressive guitar work, a thunderous and propulsive rhythm section, an enormous raise-your-beer-in-the-air-and-shout-along worthy hook paired with Dobson’s equally expressive vocals, which alternated between an achingly tender croon and a self-assured, courageous growl. And perhaps unlike many of the songs I’ve previously written about this year, the song features a bold and fearlessly vulnerable narrator, who seems to say “It’s perfectly okay to recognize and admit that you’re not okay and that you need help to climb out of dark places.” 

Impossible Weight’s fourth and latest single, album title track “Impossible Weight” continues a run of slickly polished material that nods at New Wave and arena rock with enormous hooks, twinkling synths, Dobson’s expressive and explosive guitar work paired with urgent, heart-fully-on-sleeve songwriting. While revealing Dobson’s unerring knack for crafting an anthemic hook, the song captures a narrator on the emotional brink with an uncanny psychological attention to detail. And the song features a guest spot from Sharon Van Etten, which gives the song an even bigger emotional punch. 

Co-directed by the band’s Jessica Dobson and Peter Hansen along with Tyler Kalberg, the cinematically shot visual for “Impossible Weight” features Dobson taking her light box, which is a big part of the band’s live shows to a variety of gorgeous and untraditional places — including the desert, the woods, a city rooftop, in front of a suburban house, as well as an empty concert venue. “For this video I thought, well… if we cant play shows right now then I’m going to take my light box (a prop we bring on tour that I stand on top of when I play guitar solos) and I’m going to bring it into a myriad of untraditional places,” Deep Sea Diver’s Jessica Dobson explains. “We wanted to create scenes of absolute beauty, of loneliness, of power—of the human spirit being fully alive, even in a time of sadness and uncertainty.”

“I chose The Neptune as the final shot because that is the venue in which I saw Sharon Van Etten play at the night before we recorded the song,” Dobson continues. “I’ve been a huge fan or hers for quite some time and I was deeply moved and inspired by that show. The next day, I literally said out loud as we were recording, “I wonder if Sharon would ever sing on this?” Having never met her, it was definitely a pipe dream question that somehow ended up working out and I’m eternally grateful for it. She brought so much to this song and brought it alive even more.”

Formed back in 201t6, the Brooklyn-based act No Swoon — Tasha Abbott (vocals, guitar) and Zack Nestel-Patt (synths) — have received attention across the blogosphere for a sound that meshes elements of dream pop, shoegaze, post-punk and ethereal wave. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year, you may recall that the JOVM mainstays have added their names to a growing list of acts like BLACKSTONE RNGRS, Lightfoils that have been pushing the sonic and aesthetic boundaries of shoegaze and dream pop as far as they possibly could.

2018’s EP 1 was written in Los Angeles during a self-imposed exile from the East Coast. For Abbott, a native of Ontario, CA, the idea was to get back to her geographic and musical roots: she spent a great deal of time driving around the suburbs listening to the goth and New Wave that her mom played in the car when Abbott was a little girl  (Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, New Order) and the indie rock and punk rock of her teenage years (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The White Stripes). Last year’s s Jorge Elbrecht-produced, self-titled full-length debut firmly established their sound. And while being ambitious and urgent, the material thematically touched upon the confusion, frustration and uncertainty of our zeitgeist with narrators seeking answers to questions that may never be easily resolved.

Of course, much like countless acts across the world, the Brooklyn-based shoegazers had plans for a national tour to support their self-titled debut — but because of COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, those plans have been indefinitely scrapped. In the meantime, the band will be releasing a digital zine Cancelled Tour The Zine, which will highlight the bands and artists No Swoon would have toured with during their Spring 2020 tour.

Along with that, they released “Otherside (Demo).” Written, recorded and produced through social distancing guidelines, the track is the first bit of new song that the band since the release of their full-length debut — and it’s part of a batch of material that the band has been working on. Featuring Mitski’s touring drummer Jonathan Smith, “Otherside” is a slow-burning track centered around shimmering guitars, Abbot’s ethereal crooning, fuzzy synths and a soaring hook. But at its core is a yearning and unquenchable desire for something just out of reach, whether it be the small things that make us all so very much human like touch, sex, companionship — or the end to this period of pandemic disease, death, economic ruin and uncertainty.

100% of the proceeds from the single and the Canceled Tour The Zine electronic zine will go to National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), a collection of the country’s over 1,300 independent music venues fighting to survive through this period of historic uncertainty. Music is arguably one of America’s greatest exports — and perhaps even more importantly on a local level, your local music venue gives back in many more ways economically than what you may be aware. Livelihoods are on the line, here.

 

 

 

 

Lyric Video: Seattle’s Deep Sea Diver Releases an Anthemic and Vulnerable New Single

Led by its accomplished, Los Angeles-born, Seattle-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and frontperson Jessica Dobson, the Seattle-based indie rock act Deep Sea Diver can trace its origins back to when Dobson was 19: Dobson, who has had stints  playing with a who’s who list of contemporary acts, including Beck, Conor Oberst, Spoon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Shins signed with Atlantic Records. And while with Atlantic Records, Dobsons wrote and recorded two albums that she wasn’t completely satisfied with — and Atlantic ultimately shelved the material and dropped her from the label. 

After leaving Atlantic, Dobson wrote and recorded her official solo debut EP New Caves under the name Deep Sea Diver. The project expanded to a full-fledged band with the addition of John Raines (bass) Dobson’s spouse Peter Mansen (drums), Garrett Gue (bass), and Elliot Jackson (guitar, synth), who helped to flesh out the project’s sound. Since then the band has released two albums — 2012’s self-released debut History Speaks, 2014’s Always Waiting EP and 2016’s acclaimed Secrets. 

Slated for an October 16, 2020 release through High Beam Records/ATO Records, Deep Sea Diver’s third album Impossible Dream follows a busy year of touring with Wilco and Joseph. The album’s sonic and emotional expanse reportedly stems from a period of sometimes brutal self-examination — a process that began for Dobson, not long after the Seattle-based indie quartet finished touring to support Secrets. “We went into the studio pretty quickly after the tour ended, and I sort of hit a wall where I was feeling very detached from making music, and unable to find joy in it,” Dobson recalls in press notes. “I realized I had to try to rediscover my voice as a songwriter, and figure out the vocabulary for what I needed to say on this album.”

Stepping back from music and the studio, Dobson focused on dealing with the depression she had been struggling with, and soon started volunteering for Aurora Commons, a  drop-in center for unhoused people, most whom are drug-dependent and frequently engage in street-survival-based sex work. “I spent a lot of time with the women who frequent the Commons, and it taught me a new depth of empathy,” she says. “They’re people who don’t have the luxury of going back to a home at the end of the day and hiding behind those four walls, so they’re sort of forced to be vulnerable with what their needs are. Talking with them and listening to them really freed me up to start writing about things I’d never written about before in my songs.”

Co-produced by Dobson and Andy D. Park and recorded at Seattle’s Studio X and The Hall of Justice, Impossible Weight finds Dobson and company digging far deeper emotionally than ever before — and pairing it with a bigger, more grandiose sound. While revealing Dobson’s dexterous and powerful guitar work, the album’s lush textures and mercurial arrangements allow room for Dobson to fully demonstrate her vocal range in a way that she hadn’t before. “’I’d never produced a record before and I started out with low expectations for myself, but at some point I realized, ‘I can do this,’” Dobson recalls. “I decided to completely trust my voice and make really bold decisions in all my production calls—just push everything to the absolute outer edges.” 

Interestingly, for Dobson redefining the limits of her artistry goes hand-in-hand with deeper identity issues that came up while Dobson and her bandmates were working on the band’s third album. “I was adopted and just recently met my birth mother, and found out that I’m half-Mexican and half-Jewish,” Deep Sea Diver’s frontperson explains. “Discovering my heritage and learning things about myself that I never knew before really fed into that question of ‘Where do I belong?’” Simultaneously, Dobson rediscovered the sense of possibility, adventure and joy that she first felt when she started out as a 19 year-old.  “I think being signed at such a young age messed me up in terms of the expectations I put on myself,” she says. “Somewhere along the way I lost confidence in my own vision, but after making this record I feel a much larger freedom to go in whatever direction I want with my music.”  

With Impossible Weight, Dobson hopes that others might reclaim a similar sense of freedom in their emotional lives. “Especially right now when the world is in disarray and there’s so much fear, I want this record to give people room to feel whatever they need to feel,” she says. “I hope it helps them recognize that it’s okay to fall apart, and that they’re meant to let others in instead of trying to work through everything on their own. Because the point is that the impossible weight isn’t yours to carry alone—that’s why it’s impossible.”

Impossible Weight’s third and latest single “Lights Out” is a track that’s defiant and anthemic, yet delicate and vulnerable, centered around a slick production, Dobson’s expressive work, thunderous and propulsive rhythm section, enormous, raise-your-beer-in-the-air and shout along worthy hooks and Dobson’s equally expressive vocals alternating between an achingly tender croon and a self-assured defiant growl. And while reminding me a bit of Bad Bad Hats and Nicole Atkins, “Lights Out” features a narrator expresses her needs with a bold and fearless vulnerability. “‘Lights Out’ was written around the time I hit that wall when we first started working on the record; it’s about fumbling through the darkness and knowing I damn well need help getting out,” Dobson explains. 

The recently released lyric video was created by Dobson and features the guitar tablature for the song as the notes are being played. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Dream Wife Releases a Riotous Visual for Mosh Pit Ripper “So When You Gonna . . . “

Deriving their name as a commentary on society’s objectification of women, the London-based punk rock trio and JOVM mainstays Dream Wife — Icelandic-born, London-based Rakel Mjöll (vocals), Alice Go (guitar, vocals) and Bella Podapec (bass, vocals) — can trace their origins to when the trio met and started the band back in 2015 as part of an art project conceptualized around the idea of a band born out of one girl’s memories of growing up in Canada during the 1990s.

2018 saw the band release their self-titled, full-length debut to critical acclaim. And as a result, the band built up a profile as a must-see live act, playing at SXSW, opening for Garbage, The Kills and Sleigh Bells, which they followed up with sold-out headlining tours across the European Union and the US — including a stop at Rough Trade with New York-based genre-defying artist Sabri. Adding to a growing profile, the band had their music appear in the Netflix hit series Orange is The New Black. But at the core of all of that is the trio’s mission to lift up other womxn and non-binary creatives with empowering messages and a “girls to the front” ethos.

Slated for a July 3, 2020 release through Lucky Number Music, the London-based trio’s Marta Salogni-produced So When You Gonna . . .  may arguably be the most urgent and direct call to the action of the rising act’s growing catalog. Thematically touching upon some of the most important and sobering themes of our sociopolitical moment including abortion, miscarriage and gender equality, the album is centered by an “it’s a now or never” immediacy in which the listener is directly encouraged to stop waiting, get off your ass and start doing something. The album’s title also plays on its central idea. “It’s an invitation, a challenge, a call to action,” the band’s Rakel Mjöll says in press notes.

So far, I’ve written about two of the album’s singles:  the bombastic, maximalist, tongue-in-check “Sports!,” which recalled Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!and Freedom of Thought-era DEVO, Fever to Tell-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Entertainment-era Gang of Four with an exuberant, zero fucks given air — and the achingly nostalgia “Hasta La Vista,” a mid-tempo track that focused on the tight familial bond the band has developed through a shared experience of life on the road, the aching nostalgia for the people, places and things from home you miss while away, and the odd feeling that things have changed in some way that you can’t quite put a finger on when you get back. 

So When You Gonna . . .’s third and latest single, the infectious and anthemic album title track “So When You Gonna . . .” is a most pit friendly ripper featuring bursts of angular guitar chords and punchily delivered lyrics. Proudly continuing their girls and womxn to the front ethos, their latest offering is sultry, in-your-face challenge in which its narrator displays her bodily autonomy and desires with a bold self-assuredness that says “Well, what are you waiting for? We both know what we want. Let’s get to it!” 

“It’s a dare, an invitation, a challenge.  It’s about communicating your desires, wholehearted consent and the point where talking is no longer enough,” the members of Dream Wife explain. “It promotes body autonomy and self empowerment through grabbing the moment. The breakdown details the rules of attraction in a play by play ‘commentator’ style, inspired by Meat Loaf’s ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light.”

Directed by Aidan Zamiri, the recently released video for “When You Gonna . . .” is shot from the first person POV perspective of the inside of someone’s very hungry mouth. The viewer follows the mouth as it attends a sweaty and raucous Dream Wife show that captures the energy of their live show — and most important, the excitement of strangers suddenly bonding over their love of their favorite band. And like a lot of shows, our protagonist meets and kisses a bunch of attractive new friends, and interacts directly with their favorite band. Seeing your favorite band at some dark, sweaty, booze soaked shithole is a profound experience that simply can’t be manufactured or replicated and for me, the video for “When You Gonna . . .” reminds me of the things I desperately miss. 

“For the video we worked with our favourite elf prince Aidan Zamiri who filmed around a free sweaty, sexy, gig we did for our fans back in January – shot as a first person POV from the inside of a mouth,” the band says of the new video. “Performing live is the beating heart of this band and we miss it, so please take this video as a little love letter to the rock show.”

New Video: Dream Wife’s Achingly Nostalgic Visuals for “Hasta La Vista”

Deriving their name as a commentary on society’s objectification of women, the London-based punk rock trio and JOVM mainstays Dream Wife — Icelandic-born, London-based Rakel Mjöll (vocals), Alice Go (guitar, vocals) and Bella Podapec (bass, vocals) — can trace their origins to when the trio met and started the band back in 2015 as part of an art project conceptualized around the idea of a band born out of one girl’s memories of growing up in Canada during the 1990s.

2018 saw the band release their self-titled, full-length debut to critical acclaim. And as a result, the band built up a profile as a must-see live act, playing at SXSW, opening for Garbage, The Kills and Sleigh Bells, which they followed up with sold-out headlining tours across the European Union and the US — including a stop at Rough Trade with New York-based genre-defying artist Sabri. Adding to a growing profile, the band had their music appear in the Netflix hit series Orange is The New Black. But at the core of all of that is the trio’s mission to lift up other womxn and non-binary creatives with empowering messages and a “girls to the front” ethos.

Slated for a July 3, 2020 release through Lucky Number Music, the London-based trio’s Marta Salogni-produced So When You Gonna . . .  may arguably be the most urgent and direct call to the action of the rising act’s growing catalog. Thematically touching upon some of the most important and sobering themes of our sociopolitical moment including abortion, miscarriage and gender equality, the album is centered by “it’s a now or never” immediacy in which the listener is encouraged to stop waiting, get off your ass and start doing something. The album’s title also plays on its central idea. “It’s an invitation, a challenge, a call to action,” the band’s Rakel Mjöll says in press notes. 

After playing roughly 200 shows during the course of 2018, the band didn’t bother to sit still and they turned to playing sports while writing the material that would eventually comprise their forthcoming sophomore album. “Sports!” the album’s bombastic, tongue-in-cheek first single featured explosive blasts of angular guitar, four-on-the-floor drumming, rapid-fire tempo shifts, shimmering synth arpeggios, enormous arena rock friendly hooks and winking vocal asides reminiscent of Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!and Freedom of Thought-era DEVO, Fever to Tell-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Entertainment-era Gang of Four with an exuberant, zero fucks given air. 

So When You Gonna . . . ‘s second and latest single “Hasta La Vista” is a mid-tempo track centered around four-on-the-floor drumming, shimmering and angular guitar chords, an infectious hook and Mjöll’s unique vocal delivery, which balances a girlish coquettishness with an aching and longing nostalgia for the friends and family they were away from while on the road, the small comforts of home that you’d miss while being on the road. But there’s also the acknowledgement of the tight, familial bond that they’ve developed with each other through their shared experiences of life on the road, and the aspects of their lives that have changed as a result of their lives as professional musicians. Much like a great deal of the material I’ve written about recently, “Hasta La Vista” reveals prescient parallels to our contemporary life: trapped in various forms of indefinite isolation, we can’t get the things we miss — and may never get them again. And we have to accept the changes within our lives, including the ones that may have permanent and long-lasting negative effects. 

“Hasta is one of the first songs we wrote after we completed our touring cycle for our debut album. We’d played over 200 shows in 18 months and had returned to London to discover that things around us had changed and so had we,” the band says in press notes. “Close relationships fell apart and others came together. This song is about accepting and embracing that change and being thankful to what that was and what it is today.”

The band adds, “Being on tour has some similarities to living under quarantine — the separation from loved ones, the submission to the process, the large amounts of time in contained spaces with the same group of people. We built this band around relentless touring and the celebration and love of the live show and the community that it creates. And we’re very much looking forward to experiencing that again, when the time is right.”

Edited by the band’s Rakel Mjöll, the recently released video for “Hasta La Vista” is centered around home video footage of the members of Dream Wife as adorable, small children — shot by their families. The video further emphasizes the song’s longing and wistful nostalgia. In this case for a far simpler, seemingly less uncertain time — and for several people, who may no longer be with them. 

A Q&A with San Mei’s Emily Hamilton

I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual covering the Gold Coast, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay Emily Hamilton, the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed and rising indie rock act San Mei over the years. Beginning as a synth pop-leaning bedroom recording project, Hamilton’s earliest material received attention from this site and major media outlets like NME, Indie ShuffleNYLON and Triple J. Her debut EP Necessary found the Aussie singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay moving towards a much more organic, guitar-led sound inspired by Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubCat Power, Feist and others.

A couple of years ago, Hamilton met acclaimed producer and musician Oscar Dawson at BIGSOUND, and the pair immediately hit it off.  According to Hamilton, taking Dawson on as a producer and collaborator found the duo refining ideas, exploring different soundscapes and laying down the foundation for her — and in turn, San Mei’s — sonic progression. As Hamilton explains in press notes “[Dawson and I] hit it off straight away and it seemed like he understood where I was coming from, even if I had trouble conveying certain ideas in the demos I made at home.” Hamilton’s Dawson-produced sophomore EP Heaven was a decidedly shoegazer-like affair, featuring arena rock friendly hooks, big power chords and shimmering synths that continued a run of critically applauded, blogosphere dominating material. Adding to a growing profile, last year Hamilton opened for the likes of G. FlipK. Fly, Ali Barter and Jack River in her native Australia, went on an extensive national headlining tour and played nine shows across six days at SXSW.

Released a few weeks ago through Sydney-based etcetc Records, Hamilton’s third San Mei EP Cry continues her ongoing collaboration with Oscar Dawson – and interestingly, the four song EP finds the Aussie JOVM mainstay simultaneously drawing from the harder guitar-driven work of  The Kills, Metric, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the synth-driven pop like Grimes and Lykke Li. Now, as you may recall, I recently wrote about EP title track “Cry,” a track which establishes the EP’s overall tone and tone – a hook-driven, shimmering take on dream pop centered around atmospheric synths, reverb-drenched guitars and what may arguably be her most direct and personal songwriting to date. And perhaps unlike her previously released material, the EP reveals an incredibly self-assured songwriting, crafting earnest and ambitious songwriting – all while building a larger international profile.

Earlier this week, I exchanged emails with the Gold Coast-based JOVM mainstay for this Q&A. Of course, current events have a way of bleeding into every aspect of our professional and professional lives – and naturally, I had to ask Hamilton how COVID-19 was impacting her and her career. But we also talk about her hometown (which is considered one of the more beautiful locales in the entire world), and its growing music scene, the new EP and more in a revealing chat. Check it out below.

SanMeibyMorganHamilton
Photo Credit: Morgan Hamilton

San Mei - Cry EP_packshot

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WRH: Here in New York, we’ve been social distancing and in quarantine for the past three weeks or so. How are things in Australia? How are you holding up?

Emily Hamilton: Firstly, I’m really sorry to see what’s happening in New York right now – my heart really goes out to everyone effected. I was actually in the USA around 2 weeks ago when lockdowns starting happening there. I managed to get home earlier than planned (straight into 14 days mandatory quarantine!), and Australia started following suit with social distancing, travel bans, closing non-essential business etc. pretty much as soon as I got back. I’ve got 2 days left of quarantine which is exciting — to be able to be out in the open air is gonna feel good! We have pretty strict social distancing rules here though, so I’ll still be playing it safe and spending most of my time at home once my quarantine is over.

WRH: How has COVID-19 impacted the Australian music scene? Has the pandemic affected you and your career? And if so, how?

EH: It’s hard having shows cancel and seeing venues having to close their doors. I had some shows lined up over the next couple of months that had to be cancelled, and prospects of touring in the near future don’t seem likely. I had a massive year of touring last year, so coming to terms with the fact that this year is probably going to look different is kinda hard. I know everyone in the Australian music scene is feeling the same way – and that we’re feeling the same things in music scenes around the globe. But it’s been inspiring to see so many artists pick themselves up, be innovative and find creative ways to make the best of the situation.
 

WRH: Most of my readers are based in the United States. As you can imagine, most Americans know very little about Australia, let alone your hometown. I think if you ask most Americans, they’ll tell you that it’s far (which is very true), they’ll mention the Sydney Opera House, kangaroos, koala bears and Steve Irwin. So as an American, what is Gold Coast known for? Where would I go to get a taste of how the locals live?

EH: It’s true, we’re so far away! I think that’s why Australians travel so much, because otherwise we’re just so isolated. I love my hometown; to me, it’s the perfect mix of city and surf town vibes – for someone who travels a lot for music, it’s nice to be based somewhere with a more chilled pace and open spaces. The Gold Coast is known mostly for its beautiful beaches, but we also have amazing rainforests with swimming holes and a beautiful hinterland. There has also been huge growth in hospitality, and there are so many amazing bars/restaurants/cafes popping up all over the place. So for anyone visiting I’d recommend checking out all the best nature spots and the best places to get a drink/feed.

WRH: Are there any Gold Coast-based artists that should be getting attention from the larger world that aren’t – and should be?

EH: The music scene on the Gold Coast has definitely grown over the last few years and there are a lot of exciting bands coming up. Eliza & The Delusionals are an amazing emerging band – they’ve actually just finished up a US tour supporting Silversun Pickups. They’re definitely on the rise and I think they’ll soon be getting that attention! Lastlings, Peach Fur, Ivey, Hollow Coves are just a few that are kicking goals and I’d love to see continue to grow in and outside of Australia.

WRH: For a country of about 27 million or so, how is it possible that so many Aussie artists, who make it to the States and elsewhere so damn good?

EH: I think being so far away can actually work in our favour in some ways! We have to be really, really good if we want our music to get out there in the world and have the means or opportunities to tour outside of our own country. I reckon that has created the kind of drive and work ethic for a lot of Aussie artists to keeping pushing and being the best we can be at our craft, to be able to break through the noise.

WRH: How did you get into music?

EH: I learnt classical piano when I was little (much to my dismay at the time!), which I’m really grateful for now as it’s such a good foundation for music. But I didn’t really get into writing songs or pursuing music until after high school when I met a group of friends who were musicians, and I just found myself getting caught up in it. It turned out I had a bit of a knack for songwriting and I’ve been focusing on getting better and better at it since!

WRH: Who are your influences?

EH: So many – but a few who come to mind are My Bloody Valentine, The Kills, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, [The] Jesus and Mary Chain, Warpaint, The Cranberries, Grimes, Lykke Li. . .  They’re all pretty diverse but I think I’m influenced by lots of different aspects of other artists’ songwriting/sound.

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

EH: I’m loving Cherry Glazerr, Best Coast, Connan Mockasin, Kacey Musgraves, Tame Impala, Moon Duo. . . so many more but these guys are on high rotation at the moment.

WRH: I’ve written about you quite a bit over the years. When you started out, San Mei was bedroom synth pop project. But after meeting songwriter, producer and musician Oscar Dawson at BIGSOUND, you – and in turn, San Mei – went through a decided change in sonic direction, which is reflected on both the Heaven EP and your recently released Cry EP. How has it been working with Dawson? How influential has he been on the project’s sonic development?

EH: I’ve always so appreciated your support! It means the world to an emerging artist like me to have that consistent engagement and encouragement from someone! Working with Oscar has been amazing, and I’ve learned a lot from him. I’ve always come to him with fully realised songs/demos. I usually write and track all the guide parts at home first. But Oscar has a way of bringing out the best in my songs and just making them sound better haha… so he has never really been pushy or opinionated in shaping my sound, but I’ve learned a lot from him in terms of refining things and making smart decisions in both the songwriting and production process.

WRH:  With San Mei leaning more towards a guitar-based sound, how has your songwriting process changed?

EH: Even as my sound became a little more guitar-driven, I continued to stick with my usual writing process – open up Logic, find a simple drum groove, play along ‘til I find a good riff or chord progression… but lately I’ve been trying to challenge myself in writing songs start to finish on just an acoustic guitar. I want my songs to be able to stack up when they’re played on just a guitar or piano without relying on any production. I’ve been finding that the production falls into place a lot more easily when I write this way, because the songwriting itself has to be strong, and helps lead the way in what should be built around it. I won’t be limiting myself to this process only, but finding new ways to create has been really cool.

WRH: While possessing the big and rousingly anthemic hooks that we heard on Heaven EP, your latest EP features the guitar-led, arena rock anthem “Hard to Face,” the shimmering, New Wavey-like “Cherry Days” “Cry” and “Love in the Dark.” As much as I hear Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kills, Grimes, Lykke Li and others, I also hear a bit of Prince in there, too. What inspired this new sonic direction? Was it intentional?

EH: That’s really interesting! Admittedly I haven’t listened to a lot of Prince (I probably just haven’t put in the time to become a fan!), but it’s cool to hear that reference. I couldn’t tell you a specific influence for where my sound has been heading, but I have been focusing on strengthening my identity as an artist, and recognising what my strengths are in my writing, and just making sure I write whatever comes out of me naturally and not try to sound like anything in particular. I’m still a work in progress with that, but I think that’s what has been shaping my sound.

WRH: “Hard to Find” is one of my favorite songs on the EP. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

EH: Cool! I really love this song. I called it my bratty moment. At the time of writing it, I was in a bit of a rut mentally with my music, career, future… I kept looking around at what everyone else was doing and thinking they were all kicking goals and I wasn’t. So, I just needed to let out my frustration and have a good whine in form of a song. It’s also a good reminder of me to not be that person, because we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to others, and having gratitude for the present is so important in having a healthy mind.

WRH: How did the video treatment for “Cry” come about?

EH: The song theme itself is a little melancholy to me – it’s about longing for more in life or for a better day, of always wanting to get to that next stage in life or achieving that next goal. It’s good to have drive, but for me I often get caught up in the future and sometimes I worry that I’ll wish my youth and time away instead of enjoying the present. But I wanted the video to feel light, wistful and more like a daydream, and to focus on the freedom we can find by enjoying the present and finding joy in everyday moments. I think Dom the director did a great job of capturing that feeling.

WRH: What’s next for you?

EH: I’m definitely not going to be slowing down – I’ve got lots of more music to release, and as soon as we’re allowed to play shows again, I’ll be playing as many as physically possible. Stay tuned! 😀

New Video: The Bobby Lees Release a Feral New Single

Over the past 18 months or so, the rapidly rising Woodstock, NY-based garage punk act The Bobby Lees — Kendall Wind (bass), Nick Casa (lead guitar), and Macky Bowman (drums)  — have begun to receive attention for a feral and frenzied take on garage punk and an unpredictable live show. And as a result, the rising punk rock act has opened for the likes of The Black Lips, Murphy’s Law, Boss Hog, Future Islands, Daddy Long Legs, The Chats, and Shannon & The Clams. 

Slated for a May 8, 2020 release through Alive Naturalsounds Records, The Bobby Lees’ Jon Spencer-produced full-length album reportedly finds the band mixing classic, garage punk hits, raw and emotive storytelling and some of the most blistering and dexterous guitar work I’ve heard in the past few months. So far I’ve written about two of the album’s singles: the breakneck and explosive  Fever to Tell-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs-like “GutterMilk,” and a feral and unhinged cover of Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man,”‘ that nods a bit at George Thorogood’s famous cover — but with a defiant, gender bending boldness. Building upon the reception of the album’s first two singles, the album’s third and latest single “Move” continues a run of feral and sweaty garage punk that sounds like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion on steroids. 

The recently released video captures the band playing live and goofing off while on tour — and it accurately captures the band’s youthful and infectious abandon. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay San Mei Releases a Wistful and Nostalgic Visual for “Cry”

Throughout the course of this site’s nearly ten year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Gold Coast, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay Emily Hamilton, the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed and rising indie rock act San Mei. Initially beginning as a synth pop-leaning bedroom recording project, Hamilton quickly received attention from this site and media outlets like NME, Indie Shuffle, NYLON and Triple J. Interestingly, her debut EP Necessary found the Aussie singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay moving towards a much more organic sound inspired by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Cat Power, Feist and others.

Hamilton met songwriter, producer and musical phenom Oscar Dawson at BIGSOUND a couple of years ago, and the pair immediately hit it off. According to Hamilton, taking Dawson on as a producer and collaborator found the duo refining ideas, exploring different soundscapes and laying down the foundation for her — and in turn, San Mei’s — sonic progression. As Hamilton explains in press notes “[Dawson and I] hit it off straight away and it seemed like he understood where I was coming from, even if I had trouble conveying certain ideas in the demos I made at home.” Hamilton’s Dawson-produced sophomore EP Heaven was a decidedly shoegazer-like affair, featuring arena rock friendly hooks, big power chords and shimmering synths. Adding to a growing profile, last year Hamilton opened for the likes of G. Flip, K. Fly, Ali Barter and Jack River in her native Australia, went on an extensive national headlining tour and played nine shows across six days at SXSW.

Her third EP Cry  was released last Friday through Sydney-based etcetc Recordscontinues Hamilton’s ongoing collaboration with Oscar Dawson — and interestingly, the four song EP finds the Aussie JOVM mainstay drawing from the harder guitar-driven work of The Kills, Metric, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs as well as the synth-driven pop like Grimes and Lykke Li. The EP’s latest single, title track “Cry” establishes the EP’s overall tone and sound — a hook driven, shimmering take on dream pop centered around atmospheric synths, reverb-drenched guitars and what may arguably be her most direct and personal songwriting to date. And much like her previously released material, the song reveals an incredibly self-assured songwriter, crafting some of her most earnest and ambitious material. It shouldn’t be surprising that she’s building a much larger international profile.

“I wrote ‘Cry’ when I realised it had gotten to the middle of the year already, and time was flying like crazy,” Hamilton explains in press notes. “It made me think, I hadn’t really been paying attention to what was happening around me in the present, and only been thinking about the future, wishing time would hurry up so I could get to that next thing. I think when we’re young, we lament all the things we don’t have, or how we’re not where we want to be yet. We could actually end up wishing our time and youth away. This song is a reminder to myself to stop, breathe and appreciate this stage of my life and everything it has to offer.”

The recently released video features Hamilton working at a mundane and soul-sucking day job at a restaurant. We’re introduced to her appearing bored and restless at a soul-sucking day job. And as she takes out the garbage, she suddenly decides to take off for a drive, enjoy the small things and not come back for a while.  Her travels include having her car break down and having a friendly mechanic fix her car, a stop at the beach and to an arcade. But as the video progresses, we see Hamilton smiling with a deep appreciation and joy — a marked difference from when we’re first introduced to her. 

“‘Cry’ is about longing, daydreaming, wishing for more and for a better day,” Hamilton explains in press notes. “While it’s important to me that people are able to relate to the type of restlessness that can often bring pain, I wanted the video to feel wistful and celebrate the idea that you can break free from your own mindset if you just let go, breathe, and find some joy in the present. The moments at the arcade, on the beach, driving to nowhere in particular are all reminders to stop and enjoy your youth while it’s here. Just be grateful for today.”

New Audio: JOVM Mainstay San Mei Releases a Shimmering and Anthemic New Single

Throughout the course of this site’s nearly ten year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Gold Coast, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay Emily Hamilton, the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed and rising indie rock act San Mei. Initially beginning as a synth pop-leaning bedroom recording project, Hamilton quickly received attention from this site and media outlets like NME, Indie Shuffle, NYLON and Triple J. Interestingly, her debut EP Necessary found the Aussie singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay moving towards a much more organic sound inspired by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Cat Power, Feist and others. 

Hamilton met songwriter, producer and musical phenom Oscar Dawson at BIGSOUND a couple of years ago, and the pair immediately hit it off. According to Hamilton, taking Dawson on as a producer and collaborator found the duo refining ideas, exploring different soundscapes and laying down the foundation for her — and in turn, San Mei’s — sonic progression. As Hamilton explains in press notes “[Dawson and I] hit it off straight away and it seemed like he understood where I was coming from, even if I had trouble conveying certain ideas in the demos I made at home.” Hamilton’s Dawson-produced sophomore EP Heaven was a decidedly shoegazer-like affair, featuring arena rock friendly hooks, big power chords and shimmering synths. Adding to a growing profile, last year Hamilton opened for the likes of G. Flip, K. Fly, Ali Barter and Jack River in her native Australia, went on an extensive national headlining tour and played nine shows across six days at SXSW. 

Her third EP Cry is slated for a Friday release through Sydney-based etcetc Records continues Hamilton’s ongoing collaboration with Oscar Dawson — and interestingly, the four song EP finds the Aussie JOVM mainstay drawing from the harder guitar-driven work of The Kills, Metric, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs as well as the synth-driven pop like Grimes and Lykke Li. The EP’s latest single, title track “Cry” establishes the EP’s overall tone and sound — a hook driven, shimmering take on dream pop centered around atmospheric synths, reverb-drenched guitars and what may arguably be her most direct and personal songwriting to date. And much like her previously released material, the song reveals an incredibly self-assured songwriter, crafting some of her most earnest and ambitious material. It shouldn’t be surprising that she’s building a much larger international profile. 

“I wrote ‘Cry’ when I realised it had gotten to the middle of the year already, and time was flying like crazy,” Hamilton explains in press notes. “It made me think, I hadn’t really been paying attention to what was happening around me in the present, and only been thinking about the future, wishing time would hurry up so I could get to that next thing. I think when we’re young, we lament all the things we don’t have, or how we’re not where we want to be yet. We could actually end up wishing our time and youth away. This song is a reminder to myself to stop, breathe and appreciate this stage of my life and everything it has to offer.”